Funny Man Makes Serious Point

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Because comedian Mark Malkoff has done a few other publicity stunts, it might be easy to dismiss his latest. He once visited all 700+ Starbucks in New York City in 24 hours, and he’s the guy who lived in an IKEA store for a week – using the furniture on sale as his own. But his latest makes a serious point for those whose lives have been taken over by the Internet and related technologies.

For five days, Malkoff withdrew from his normal life and lived in the bathroom of his apartment – a room smaller than an Alcatraz jail cell. As he put it in his blog, “In the past, I've tried to stop using the Internet in my daily life and lasted only a few hours. But for this to really work, I need a place with zero distractions and temptations.”

He admits that his net addiction got so bad at one time, he would leave his wife on dates to go and check his Facebook and Twitter updates. Malkoff made a to-do list of things to keep his mind occupied without Internet access and hopes to break his addiction with this self-styled rehab. His list and more about the stunt can be found here.

The serious point is that there are those who cannot seem to ‘unlink’ on their own. The Internet and all it offers consumes their lives. Online gaming starts to seem more important than daily responsibilities; online friends more important than offline; facebook and other social media mean more than grades or sports or real life hobbies.

Abstinence is the mainstay of addiction recovery, so the ‘bathroom rehab’ might be a good start, but for Malkoff, it’s more a social statement than a real attempt to break an addiction. For those really addicted, there is the dilemma of using the Internet for those things they have to, like a job, homework or other legitimate purposes, while avoiding all the pitfalls and time suckers.

There’s no easy answer, but direct supervision coupled with abstinence are useful steps. Filtering software doesn’t seem powerful enough to do the job, cutting the power supply after a set time online might. As with all addictions, the first step is to recognize there is a real problem to solve. After that, having someone who can keep an eye on the computer (no private sessions!) and control use will help give those addicted a chance.

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